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Mark Astrup Oral History Interview, May 7, 1986

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KIM SMITH: Would you tell me how you decided on an architecture career, and how you came to Oregon State?

MARK ASTRUP: I don't know when I decided, I'd always been interested in plants and gardening from knee up, I guess. My first love was roses, and this was in grammar school. I had a collection, oh, I imagine somewhere around 30 or 40 as much as I could afford to spend at that time for roses in our yard. I think that was the beginning. I first went to University of Washington but at that time they had no school of landscape architecture; it was at Washington State. So 00:01:00after two years approximately at Washington, I transferred to Oregon State in landscape which then was landscape gardening. I finally graduated in 1925 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture, I guess it was actually worded. I went to work for Doty and Doerner and Doris, who were graduates of Oregon State in landscape. They were into landscape construction in Portland. And it was during that time that Professor A. Peck [Oregon Agricultural College] contacted me and told me that the state was establishing a State Parks Department and was 00:02:00looking for a state parks superintendent. So, I did apply at that time but never heard anything about it.

Then in 1933 I was in the Civilian Conservation Corp as landscape foreman at Deception Pass State Park. A year later I was promoted to the entire area. I mean head of particularly the landscape portion of development of the parks in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It was at that time that I first became associated with Oregon State Parks. I don't recall the exact number of CCC Camps that were 00:03:00in Oregon, but normally they were just winter camps because they came down from the higher areas of the national parks or forests and would spend the winter season in the lower altitudes. Subsequently, I was advanced to assistant regional director with an office in Portland and then transferred after a year to San Francisco.

KS: The CCC Camps at that time were under the direction of the National Park Service?

MA: Well the CCC program was under the direction of the National Park Service. 00:04:00They were practically the only construction units that were employed by the parks. They had a few park superintendents. But there was no construction going on in the State Parks in Oregon or Washington for that matter until after the CCC program was practically completed.

KS: So you were employed by the National Park Service?

MA: Employed by the National Park Service. Ah, the Chief of Staff for the Army, General Marshall was very interested in establishing recreational camps along the coast, west coast, for rest and recreation [pause] mostly air corp units 00:05:00training in the desert. I was loaned to the Army at that time, and for some reason they had difficulty in transferring funds, or something. So they said, we'll just give you a commission in the Army period. That occurred just before war broke out, that was in October. And of course then you were in period. That was the end of that program, we did construct two camps: one in Seattle, Washington and that was used primarily by soldiers from Fort Lewis, and one at, 00:06:00I guess it was at Santa Barbara. Anyway, the program had to be dropped with the beginning of the war.

KS: Did these parks that you developed become part of the State Parks of California and Washington?

MA: These were not parks, actually they were primarily just housing facilities. The soldiers could come in and have a basis of operating in a community. They were not park developments, actually. So, then at the end of the war in '46, I was offered a position with the State Highway Commission as an assistant state park superintendent. After a period, they decided they would reestablish a 00:07:00landscape architectural section in the highway department, and I was transferred to that job.

KS: How did that transfer differ from what you had been doing before? Can you tell me what you were doing?

MA: Well I was assistant state park superintendent. It actually didn't involve too much as far as the parks are concerned because Mr. [Samuel] Boardman would never let anyone tell his field forces what to do. It was kind of, you might say, a joke because I would advocate something and he would come by a week or so later and counteract those. So there was practically no production and I was 00:08:00very happy to get back into actual landscape again.

KS: So did you come under a different part of the organization with this transfer?

MA: No, no it still, well as you know perhaps, state parks were financed under highway funds. There was a separate organization within the highway department that presumably operated the parks. You must know, of course, that Mr. Boardman was primarily interested in acquisition. He was not interested in any public development, which was politically hopeless. You can't have the development of a 00:09:00park system without public support, but it was very fortunate with respect to the program of acquisition because it only had to be approved by a commission of three, not by the state legislature. And Oregon at that time was certainly the envy of all states because Oregon was the only state [parks system] that was under the highway commission, except Idaho. Idaho at that time had one state park and it was under the state' highway commission.

KS: The committee that you mentioned was that an advisory committee?

MA: No! That committee was the commission which runs the state highway department, the transportation department now, which includes other forms of transportation, the highway is just one unit of it. Mr. Boardman was the first 00:10:00state park superintendent; I think that occurred in 1927. He was followed by Mr. [Chester] Armstrong, who was an engineer in the state highway department. And I followed after him. (That is shown in the biography I have written up). But that didn't work out too satisfactorily. I was still in charge of the landscape division, or unit, or section. It had everything from division to unit, I guess, 00:11:00in the scope of departmental staff. So I was transferred back to the landscape section. Now, I've used section and unit and division all as if synonymous. I don't know exactly how that worked. And Dave Talbot, the present superintendent, was promoted, or brought in. He was with the state parks, the county parks, at Grants Pass at the time. He has proved very, very satisfactory.

At the time of the CCC programs, of course, we had the plans for the parks which were development plans. They were made by a foreman in the camp, normally a 00:12:00landscape foreman in each camp. And they [plans] were approved by the state and by the National Park Service which served as the bases of the work program for the young men. So at that time I had an overall, not individual, but I mean an overall supervision of that planning and [it] had to have my approval. Now that's in a nutshell, that is my experience [of] the state parks. I've always been interested in parks and welcomed the opportunity but it just was too much, 00:13:00both the responsibility for both areas of development.

KS: Can you tell me more about what you did as a landscape architect in the way of parks and wayside development? Are there specific parks that had your attention?

MA: Well my major development was a major undeveloped area in Washington, Deception Pass State Park. There were two sections in fact, there were two camps on either side of Deception Pass that was before the bridge was built. And I was responsible for that development. Actually, we developed this on a basis of 00:14:00trying to retain the natural features which are very prominent and outstanding in that park. On the basis of control, by controlling the parking, we planned, developed that is, on the size of the parking area. We considered that without spoiling the natural value we could have so many people. I think it was a rather new conception of park development: tying the development to the restriction of users. Anyway it got me a promotion. [laughter]

Now they had the one camp in Idaho, Lake Chatcolet. That is the one park they 00:15:00had so, I had to practically do the basic preparatory work in getting the plans out for the CCC camp when it arrived. But we had help from Oregon in getting that. So as far as actual plans are concerned, that would be my major contribution to parks. [in Idaho] Then in the program of the highway department development [Oregon] of the rest areas, I was responsible for the choice of locations. We drew up a plan (this is with respect to the interstate system not 00:16:00the primary or secondary system) for the development of rest areas at approximately 45 mile intervals.

Getting plans drawn under my supervision, for those areas, Oregon took the lead actually in the construction of roadside rest areas. And it was natural because many of the small state parks are actually just waysides or roadside development areas. So that [with] the two, we have that counter-balance between the state parks and the highway commission. And in a few areas that have been developed as 00:17:00rest areas, the maintenance section has taken over the maintenance of those areas. There are a few areas where [highway] maintenance has taken over the maintenance of state parks. It grew naturally out of the establishment of the smaller wayside parks-state parks.

KS: Was the focus of that [roadside development] toward accommodating tourists?

MA: Well it turned out to be of course, but to all highway users. Your interstate system, there are no developments on it, no place to stop except on the shoulder of the highway and that is forbidden; so they [waysides] were 00:18:00established as a means for providing a service to the public. A place where they could stop and rest, recuperate, the children could get out and run around, although we did not have any play facilities. But they could get out and walk their dog. We even had a time or two when a circus group came by with elephants. That's not good.

KS: They walked their elephants?

MA: They walked their elephants. [laughter]

Horses often stopped. Horse trailers would stop and exercise their horses, but it was primarily for persons not animals. The dogs and cats are quite a problem. 00:19:00You have to have separate areas. People are very particular, we found, whether or not there are dogs associated where any other dog had been. But the [rest areas] were a safety measure so that people could stop and rest; get off the highway in a safe area that had public facilities and have a nap and continue on. Some of the places in Washington [pause] there is at least one rest area where a local organization furnishes free coffee. But that was not in the original plan [chuckle]. That was something that developed. They [rest areas] were primarily a safety measure, a convenience for the public where no public conveniences existed.

KS: Was it your vision and foresight to keep them as natural as possible and to 00:20:00beautify them?

MA: When they gave me that program I personally wanted to see it continue. And funds were never plentiful and my major concept at first, particularly was to have the facilities as simple as possible and yet perform the functions that they were designed for, so the cost of the buildings were kept down. The highway department had no architects at that time in the bridge department. And our buildings were not the best architecturally, no question about that. And by far 00:21:00they have been improved a lot since. But from a design standpoint, they were just buildings period, [chuckle] block buildings. They have improved most of them, and most of them have been enlarged.

Although the problem particularly with the federal authorities was to acquire their approval and to acquire enough land to do what we wanted to do. They wanted to hold to a maximum of eight acres which in some locations was very inadequate. It was always a struggle with them to get approval of larger areas so additional development could be made. Now some developed into actually young 00:22:00parks. The Baldock, for instance, going into Portland they acquired subsequent to the first acquisition two or three times as much land and developed it additionally.

Nobody knew just how the response of the public would be, both California and Washington hung back on the development then. After the first year or two, many travelers, local Washingtonians and Californians, went back and told their 00:23:00public officials why can't we have those facilities on our highways, like Oregon has? We had the first three that were approved on the interstate system, I think. That was, they were approved on the basis of historical importance, seeming importance as such. It was quite a job to prepare those justifications. Some were stretched, I would say, a little just between me and thee. But we got federal approval and of course federal funds. So they were developed with a minimum cost to the state, without question.

KS: Can you identify those for me?

MA: The first three? I think it was Baldock and Santiam River crossing and the 00:24:00one north of Eugene. I can't recall off hand what we call that; it is that grove of oaks in there north of Eugene. I think those are the first three.

KS: And the gardening, the landscaping and the shrubbery that was done around them, was that initially part of the program or was that added later?

MA: No, when the interstate funds were acquired, I mean funds were approved for the planting of trees and shrubs and such. I don't know if you are familiar with 00:25:00the planting right in the middle of Seattle, downtown Seattle, they have a park that was developed in respect to the highway. So it had quite a bit of latitude. Those funds all had to be approved; were prepared by the state but had to have federal approval for funds and contracts were let for the construction. Most of that was in relation to entrance to cities, interchanges and such. Although we made extensive planting in median strips as a safety measure.


KS: As a safety measure, could you explain that a little more?

MA: Well in our case we used the rose which is grown naturally of course; not pruned or anything it grows into a very compact [barrier]. And it will pretty effectively stop a car from going across a median, particularly if it strikes at an acute angle in relation to the highway. It will even pretty well stop a car from going right straight across, so that was a major safety [precaution] and the headlight glare. Those were the two considerations. We have extensive 00:27:00sections of highway, of course, where, especially in eastern and central Oregon, you had to have water to establish growth and to keep it growing. And in those areas it's practically confined to the entrances and interchanges within the city.

KS: You mentioned Boardman's tenure as superintendent as being an acquisition period, did that change with Armstrong? Did he have a different focus when he became park superintendent?

MA: It gradually changed as the acquisition program became such that it was felt 00:28:00that the state had a reasonable park system established. And much of his acquisition was performed and accomplished at a very moderate cost.

KS: Whose acquisition?

MA: Mr. Boardman's. He had a way of talking to people. He often talked them out of their property rather than paying them for it. He did perform a wonderful function for the state, no question about it. And in my opinion he was correct: acquisition was the important thing. But you had to begin [development]. The support by the state highway commission has varied, of course, between commissioners. But under the leadership of Mr. [Glen] Jackson over a very 00:29:00critical period of state park development-he was very generous and supportive to that program- why it developed very rapidly. The major thing there that it had a basis, that is a fiscal basis, of support with the state highway commission. Under Mr. Jackson's chairmanship it was excellent; you couldn't ask for better.

KS: What was his position then?

MA: He was chairman of the State Highway Commission.

KS: Was there an advisory commission under that for the parks?


MA: There was an advisory commission under the parks, yes. I don't know whether they [pause]; they could report direct to the commissioner, or they could also report to advise the state park superintendent. But I'm sure that on occasion they have done both-the commission and the state parks superintendent. They were an adjunct in advising and in dispersing, not reports, but support for the state parks because they were from all sections of the state, and it brought the parks more to the focus, more fully. And they have been assisted by a good group of 00:31:00men right from the first.

KS: Do you remember any of those men?

MA: Oh, well. One is, there is [pause], a state park named after him in Klamath Falls. Oh, who is the man? We were talking about this, this morning, Bing, coming down the state parks advisory board? [Question addressed to Bing Francis, a personal friend. Mr. Francis responded, "Oh, Lawrence Stewart."] Lawrence Stewart, yes he served on that parks advisory board for a number of years. I 00:32:00can't remember all their names, my memory isn't what it once was.

KS: Was Robert Sawyer still on the committee when you were involved with the parks? Or Henry Van Duzer?

MA: No. They were all before my time. But Mr. Van Duzer, well, I better not say this over [laughs]. He was never a good supporter of the parks. It is rather incongruous that his name is on such an important wayside. Anyway what is that man's name at Klamath Falls, he established that museum, logging museum in that 00:33:00park north of Klamath Falls. Oh, I could look up some of those people but I can't recall. There was a merchant in Grants Pass that was very active. The names have slipped my mind.

KS: Can you give me a sketch of what Chester Armstrong was like, and what his move was like to balance acquisition and development?

MA: I would rather not make too much comment. He had had no experience in 00:34:00administration or developed the parks. He learned; the parks went forward under his administration period. He did acquire some pretty good help as it turned out. Of course you can't operate a state park's system with one man planning to do everything. It takes a staff to support it. Mr. Armstrong came into the development phase of it.

KS: Was that partially developed because the public wanted greater development?

MA: It's hard to say whether there was a public demand for it, or to get from 00:35:00the support of parks they had to develop [it]. You've got those two things that interact, without question. And I'm quite sure that possibly the public demand was greater than the impetus from the parks themselves. Although I think the commission surely realized that if they were going to have the support, have public support for the program which they had to have to justify the approval of funds, why you have to develop.

They have done much more particularly along the coast now in these access points to the beach, providing toilet facilities and everything in a relatively small 00:36:00area. Some of them are just big enough for the parking, like the one there at Dee River. It's a nice development, used extensively by the public. And I don't know what, I don't think that the private business and public entities along the coast could possibly provide adequate facilities for the traffic on Highway 101, if it weren't for the state development. It's costly, but it's important to tourism, to the use of the beaches and everything by the public, and we're doing 00:37:00everything possible to encourage travel. We were talking this morning about the development of parks. In the 20's for instance, there were no travel and recreational vehicles. There weren't any. But that has caused an exceptional development to accommodate those, so we live with those.

KS: You mentioned the coast. There seems to be a north to south pattern by Oregon's residents to use the parks rather than west to east. Do you have any 00:38:00thoughts on why that is?

MA: Well, I think that the ocean is a major attraction of course. We are so fortunate that we have both mountains and oceans, but the majority of the forested areas are in the Forest Service, and they have established recreation areas there. The state has virtually none in the mountainous areas, and the Forest Service has a very limited number on the ocean. It was always my thought that an agreement should be reached between the two so as not to duplicate expenses of administration, that the state would be responsible for the development on the coast, the Forest Service would be responsible for the 00:39:00development of federal lands along with the Bureau of Land Management which have large acreages. I don't know if that was ever [pause] I approached some federal service officials. I think it could have been put across, but I don't know that anything has been done since.

KS: How would you describe your tenure as park's superintendent?

MA: I am not very proud of it. We did produce a book, a report on state parks, I don't know how it was worded and I don't have a copy of it. ["Oregon Outdoor Recreation"] It was on state park development; the needs of it and trying to 00:40:00predict the path that it would take. I think that was the major accomplishment during my tenure as park superintendent.

KS: Can you tell me more about that plan?

MA: No, it is so many years in the past. I'd have to get the report and read it. I'm sure it's available at the state parks, without any question. I know it is.

KS: Did it project on a five year basis or a ten year basis?

MA: I can't remember just how we handled that, but it probably was a prediction. It would have to be a projection into the future on some span of time. I am sure 00:41:00you can get a copy of that from the state parks, if not, then I can get one ; I'm positive. And if I can't find that interview on Mr. Boardman-I think that might be of interest to you-if I can't find my copy then I'll get a copy from the state parks for you.

KS: Were there some acquisitions or donations made during your year and a half as park superintendent?

MA: Practically none. I don't recall any major donations. I don't think there were. They were working on acquisitions. The acquisitions after Mr. Boardman, the actual detail of the work, was handled by the Right-of-Way Division of the 00:42:00highway. I think the state parks had one or two men who worked on it, but the details of transactions were all done by the Right-of-Way Division. But I can't recall any major acquisitions made during my tenure.

KS: Can you tell about the political change that was taking place in Oregon to move the parks away from the cover of the highway system?

MA: I am not sure. I'm certain that there were certain persons within the state 00:43:00that believed the state park system should be out of the highway department. In my estimation they were right but it did provide a very adequate and substantial means of both acquisition and development of the state park system. In other words, it's far easier to argue with three commissioners than it is with the state legislature and all the other state agencies that are wanting money. So Oregon in that sense was very fortunate, no question about it. And I am certain that we are further along than we would ever be if it was all dependent on legislative approval. Now of course the legislature has to approve the highway 00:44:00budget, but parks was a pretty insignificant part of that budget.

KS: Was there a particular governor who you recall as being supportive of parks?

MA: I think as a whole all the governors have been supportive, but there is a difference between supportive and actually advocating additional funds. Whether any of them did that, I don't know. I don't recall any governor, to my knowledge, that was not a supporter of the state parks. They recognized, I am sure, their value as a tourist attraction, and as a necessary, desirable function of the state government to provide the park facilities. But, I don't 00:45:00recall to my knowledge, a great push behind from the governor's chair.

KS: What are your opinions about camping, which, after 1950, became a primary focus for the public?

MA: Oregon has been criticized for having a double standard: They charge more for out-of-state visitors than they did for residents. There is a good argument for that. Out of state residents don't have a state sales tax to pay, which would probably equal the additional cost they have to pay as they go through the 00:46:00state. I think it is only fair to charge for special services, in other words, the person's camping. I would not favor a charge for picnicking but for camping, yes. You've got quite a cost in developing and establishing the public facilities, the toilet and garbage facilities, the whole thing, the roads and everything else. I don't know whether they are still furnishing wood but they did for many years. That was a big item. I think they are charging for it now in 00:47:00some areas, but I am not positive. But as the wood runs out, it becomes quite an item at large campgrounds. Remember some of these are small cities.

To my knowledge there has only been one state that has been able to support the state parks system from local fees. It varies by state, but I think people should pay for special services. Otherwise, I would hope that charges to the public would be kept to a minimum, because I think they [the parks] are of great social benefit to the state.


KS: Were you in favor of camping within the state [parks]?

MA: We have some areas that were altogether too small. I wouldn't sacrifice that for camping. Of course private capital has come in and developed extensive recreation facilities for recreation and the recreational vehicle. There are 00:49:00some pretty good sized developments along the coast particularly. There is one right there at the entrance to Salem for instance, and I think it is a legitimate business. But people want to be in the parks, I'm sure. They would rather be in than on the outs. [laughs]

KS: In the area of interpretation, where do you think the parks should go as far as offering interpretive centers?

MA: I think they should go as far as they can. After all it's the only way you 00:50:00can educate the public in conservation matters, which they would undoubtedly stress. The program, as it originally started, was to get people that were not very familiar with the different things to do within an area, and help them. Now, lots of people don't know anything about ocean fishing, and the original concept in this state was that they would provide, without cost to anybody, this type of information and make the visits more enjoyable. I'm not familiar with what they are doing now. Maybe Bing [Francis] could tell you more because he has offered his services to give lectures to people in campgrounds. And also senior 00:51:00citizens who are assisting in the administration and clean up, particularly in the smaller areas where there is inadequate state help, it's been very beneficial both to the parks and to the people, without question. And the more of that type of participation that you get, the better off they are; there is no question.

KS: Better in the sense of maintenance and security?

MA: Security is a difficult problem. In these larger areas you have all the problems of a small city, 500 and up population every night. But they have now I 00:52:00think given the custodians, or the park personnel, police powers. But for a long time they didn't have it. It's a problem. Fortunately, I think maybe we've had more trouble in the rest area than we've had in the parks. That comes with public use; you've got those problems. You do your best. Originally in the rest areas we couldn't prohibit people coming in and staying for any length that they wanted to (as far as that's concerned) because that was the premise of their construction-rest and safety. But we did not permit any camping. The minute they 00:53:00started to put up a camp or make overnight provisions, why they were told to move on. And I think that is one way you can administer those areas most satisfactorily. They are not there for campground use. It is a problem in some areas, particularly where there is a large farm population. You have workers coming in to harvest crops on a spasmodic basis as the crops ripen. It hasn't been too large a problem.

KS: After your tenure as park superintendent how else were you employed by the state park system?


MA: I didn't do anything; might give a little advice occasionally, if it were asked. [laughs] I was working on the highway right-of-way, exclusively. I had nothing to do with the parks.

KS: When did you retire?

MA: I retired in 1968.

KS: How many years did you give to the park system or the highway department?

MA: Well, I was functioning [pause] and my knowledge of the parks started in 00:55:001934. Up until the time of the war, I was more or less connected under the CCC program-National Park Service- and then again after I came back here specifically as assistant superintendent, whatever that period was I can't tell you exactly, but I think it's covered in that [points to his biographical sketch]. I've always had an interest in parks, their development. It's just one of those things that grows.